Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: Adrian Cardenas, IF

The 2008 deadline deal that sent Joe Blanton to Philadelphia and three prospects to Oakland is shaping up as a win-win for both sides. Blanton helped the Phillies win a World Series and is pitching well this season, while Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman and Matt Spencer have shown promise at various levels for the A's. We caught-up with Cardenas, who many tabbed as the top prospect in that deal…

When Adrian Cardenas was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the first round in 2006, he was tabbed as a "natural .300 hitter." Now three-plus seasons into his professional career, Cardenas has done little to cast doubt on that label. In fact, through Sunday, Cardenas was sporting a career .297 average in 381 pro games. He has never hit lower than .293 in any full season.

Cardenas has posted these impressive numbers despite being regularly one of the youngest players on his teams at every level. In 2007, Cardenas led Low-A Lakewood in doubles and RBIs and was second in homers as a 19-year-old. He also appeared as part of Team USA in the MLB Futures Game, a prospect showcase, at AT&T Park in San Francisco. As a 20-year-old in 2008, Cardenas hit a combined .296 with a .364 OBP in 109 games between A-ball and Double-A despite dealing with the pressure of being tabbed the "main prospect" in the high-profile Joe Blanton trade between Philadelphia and Oakland. He then followed that season with an appearance in the Arizona Fall League and a stint in the A's big league spring training camp in 2009.

This season, Cardenas has split his time with Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento, and, on both teams, he has been the youngest position player. Cardenas excelled with Midland, batting .326 with an 838 OPS in 79 games. Those numbers were actually even better before a July slump saw his average dip from .356 to .326. Still, his .326 mark currently ranks second in the Texas League behind Midland teammate Chris Carter, and he is among the Texas League's top-10 in doubles, OBP and OPS.

Things have been a little different for Cardenas in Triple-A this season. He has had two stints with the Sacramento River Cats, one coming in May when the River Cats' infield was short-handed, and the other beginning on August 2nd, when he was promoted for the River Cats' playoff stretch run. In 25 games, Cardenas is batting only .170 with the River Cats, with a .250 OBP and only five extra-base hits. He went 0-13 to start his most recent stint with Sacramento, but he has been hitting better of late, going four-for-his-last-11 with an RBI and two walks.

Regardless of the recent slump, Cardenas is one of the Oakland A's top prospects and is viewed by many as an important part of the team's future. The biggest question appears to be whether that future will come at second base or at third base, as Cardenas – a high school shortstop – has seen significant time at both positions since coming to the A's in the Blanton trade.

We spoke to Cardenas on Saturday about his first year with the A's, the differences between the Phillies and A's organizations, his experience at the Arizona Fall League and in big league camp, and more…

OaklandClubhouse: Congratulations on making it back up to Triple-A. You are obviously coming off of a strong season with Midland. Did you feel more comfortable playing with them this year having been with the club a little bit last season?

Adrian Cardenas: I think I did. What I think helped me out the most was going to the [Arizona] Fall League after that and getting invited to big league camp and doing well there. It's just kind of the confidence thing, you know? If you think you can hit, you can hit. That's basically half the battle, if not more, so I think that helped me out a lot, yeah.

OC: You left Midland as the leader in the Texas League in batting average. Is that something you'll keep a half-eye on to see if you win the title?

AC: [laughs] It would be fun, but I don't think I have enough at-bats to last me through the whole year, so I don't think I'll make it.

OC: What was your big league spring training experience like?

AC: It was great. They were all great guys – [Jason] Giambi, [Mark] Ellis and Chavy [Eric Chavez], all of them being there was great. I give credit to all of them this year, especially Ellis for helping me out in particular with my routine on defense. I think that was crucial. It helped me out so much and just being able to be all ears and soak everything up, everything that they said, helped me out a lot.

OC: You've played a lot of second and third base. Is there a position you feel more comfortable at right now?

AC: At this point, second or third is fine. Whichever place you throw me at, I feel comfortable. Short, I used to [feel comfortable there], but I haven't played there in awhile so it would take me a little time to get used to it again. But really, any position on the infield, except first or catcher, I can handle pretty well.

OC: Have you noticed a big difference between the Philadelphia and Oakland organizations now that you have spent about a year with each of them?

AC: No, except that you can wear your pant legs down and you don't have to shave with Oakland. Other than that, they have one thing pretty much in common and that's winning. They want to win. Both organizations were fun and being away [from home] is really the biggest thing for me [to adjust to] with Oakland. Going from growing up in Miami and everything being on the East Coast and then moving to an organization where everything is on the West Coast or in Arizona was the biggest adjustment for me.

OC: Did you know [A's starter] Gio Gonzalez at all growing up in Miami?

AC: Yeah, we went to the same high school [Monsignor Pace] for one year. I know him pretty well. He helped me out, too, especially in big league camp with me not knowing too many people. He took me in a little bit, so that was nice of him.

OC: The scouting report on you has always read that you are a natural .300 hitter. Is that something that has always come naturally to you or is it something that you've had to work really hard at?

AC: I think a little bit of both. I grew up always being able to hit, but when you get to this point, this level professionally, everyone is just as good or better than you, so it is the little things that are going to separate you. Definitely everybody has the talent here, but it is all about being able to fine-tune those little things and make the adjustments. I think that has been what has allowed me to have success.

OC: You've always been one of the younger players on every pro team you've ever played on. Has that been hard or do you think that it has made you a better player?

AC: It hasn't been that tough. Maybe when I got to Double-A and Triple-A, it has been a little tougher than the other levels, but not too much. The only thing I remember was going into Double-A last year and I was playing short. I hadn't played short in awhile. I don't remember who it was, but one of the veterans said to me, ‘hey rookie, don't blow it. We're in a pennant race.' And I'm 20 and in Double-A, so I was a little scared there, but after awhile, I felt comfortable and I felt like I belonged there, and things were good after that.

OC: You got a hit [Friday] night. Do you feel like you are starting to get comfortable up here at Triple-A?

AC: It's definitely been a learning experience. I've been fortunate enough not to struggle much ever in professional baseball when it comes to hitting and this is the first time when I am really experiencing a little rough slump. But I feel good. I got a few walks, which means I am seeing the ball well, and I got a hit, which means that things are starting to fall my way. We'll see. Hopefully things can build from that.

OC: Do you have plans for the off-season yet? Are you lining up winter ball or planning to rest and prepare for the next season at home?

AC: I have no idea what I'm doing right now. I might be going to Mexico, but I'm not sure.

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